Carol Galante, Faculty Director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation and I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor of Affordable Housing and Urban Policy at the University of California, Berkeley recently published “Lessons from the Great Recession for Today: Housing Aid Now!,” in which she shares how we can apply lessons from our past experiences to our current experience with COVID-19. The below is an excerpt from her piece:
As I personally hunker down, work from home, and get better at virtual technology as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19, I am well aware of how privileged I am to be able to do so. The enormity of what is upon us for working families across America has hit me hard. I am also having déjà vu from the early days of 2009, when I was with the Federal Housing Administration and confronting a singular and difficult question: “How do we respond?”
I am proud of the choices we made to help people in immediate need, but frankly, I am also reflecting on all the paths not traveled. The path was blocked in part by a lack of political will and consensus and in part because policymakers were uncertain in those early days just how bad this would get. Yet today, I have no doubt that the crisis would have resolved faster and better for the vast majority of Americans had we done more to simply keep people in their homes.
I realize this crisis is not the same as the last. And that there are many other urgent actions the federal government needs to take to stem the impact of the crisis other than housing. That said, we can’t tell people to “shelter in place” if they are at risk of losing that shelter through no fault of their own.
The financial crisis offers two important lessons for how federal, state, and local agencies should respond to this pandemic with respect to housing. First, emergency assistance must be comprehensive and directly aimed at those individuals with the greatest need. Second, for many households, the “crisis” will not be over in a few weeks or even a few months. We need to act now to ensure that the recovery is broadly shared, and that those most impacted by the crisis of today—lower-income families and vulnerable seniors—are not left out in the cold.
Here, I offer a few ideas for how to structure both the emergency response and the longer-term interventions that will be needed to preserve and restore housing stability and security.